The House and Senate approved a $1.4 billion hunger relief bill Thursday that would increase food stamp benefits and extend emergency food assistance programs for the needy.
Sponsors called the bill the most dramatic nutrition legislation in more than a decade. It passed on a voice vote in the House and after a similar vote in the Senate in the early evening it was sent to the White House."The effort to remove hunger in America is not a political issue or an economic issue. It is a moral issue," Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told a Capitol Hill news conference.
Leahy predicted the president would sign the bill since it falls within the prescribed budgetary guidelines.
It requires the Agriculture Department to purchase $120 million in food during each of the next two years to distribute to the needy to compensate for the recent shortage of surplus commodities. It also requires the department to buy $112 million in commodites over the next three years for food banks and soup kitchens serving the homeless.
The legislation also increases the basic food stamp benefit for each recipient by about 1.5 cents per day in fiscal 1989 and by approximately 5 cents per day in fiscal 1990. For a family of four, that translates to a $1.80 monthly increase beginning Oct. 1, 1988, and $6-a-month increase the following year, plus annual increases for inflation.
The bill also makes it easier for farmers, migrant workers, the elderly and disabled to participate in the food stamp program and increases the reimbursement rates for the school breakfast program and other nutrition programs serving children.